On one faithful BET Awards night, “The Rubber Band Man” was caught in an attempt to purchase guns. Due to a checkered criminal past – a previously convicted felon – the life of rapper T.I. drastically changed: he fought courts to receive sentencing many felt was tainted with inside work; he toiled through his MTV reality show in an attempt set an example for young men; he released an album which took a sharp turn from his earlier work; an spent a year in prison serving the sentence for gun charges. As Tip’s release from prison, and in an attempt to piece back his life, “Dead and Gone” rapper violates his parole. While T.I.’s in jail, his fans have become the judge and the jury of his latest release, No Mercy.
After several released albums, fans usually have set expectations, and consistency is often at the top of the list. T.I. is a consistent rapper; he is not overwhelming or outright superior to his competition. As a general rule today, lyrical consistency takes a backseat to the flow. There is a low emphasis on punch lines, and high content expectation. Some rappers spit words over a beat and try to make them rhyme; others vomit out a spew of similes, and half -hearted metaphors. It is fair to conclude that T.I.’s lyrical structure, style, and content is more spoken word than mere raps.
The beat selection is the highest risk taken on this album; not necessarily due to beat quality, but for style and tempo. One production selection that may raise eyebrows is the album-titled track “No Mercy” which was produced by none other than The Dream. As with Paper Trail, there will be a significant pocket of T.I.’s fans who will find themselves frustrated with the number tracks aimed at the ladies, as well as those considered “bubblegum music.” Overall production is a combination of introspective and party-flavored mixes. If one is looking for bass-heavy tracks with large drums for rolled-down car windows and block parties, his mixtape, **** a Mixtape, will be a better bet.
Overall Content: 8.5
More than most other rappers, T.I. manages to maintain his “hood” credibility while continuing to showcase a broad range of feelings, emotions, and experiences in his music. No Mercy addresses several issues, including his public perception after his first jail sentence, even touching upon the one he awaits. Gripes about the struggles of having money, acknowledging that most people don’t care for the wealth’s problems but admitting to himself and the listener that he is not perfect, and he will never be. The overall feel of the album can be assessed from a perspective of a man at the crossroads, ready to make a change in his life. In addition, his priorities have taken a major shift, family becoming the main focus of his life – Tip married his longtime girlfriend Tiny in August of this year – including, his music.
Once again, Tip paints his life over a lyrical canvass and does so without over exerting the listener. No Mercy, just as many of his previous albums, T.I. offers listeners best of both worlds: a bit from the old Tip, transitioning into the new. He may not be the exact man that plunged into the Hip Hop game several years ago; he may not even consider himself the King Of The South anymore; however, his ability to make quality music remains. No Mercy is Tip’s declaration that much more is left in the Rubber Band Man; hopefully, he can stay out of prison long enough to keep the heat coming.